Homeowner Activists Change Landscape

Homeowner Activists Change Landscape

Public Storage willing to sell controversial plot.

Residents along Carpenters Hall Drive in Lorton Station may not be looking at a two-story self-storage facility in their backyards after all. Thanks to an "Out-of-Turn Plan Amendment" request introduced by Mount Vernon District Supervisor Gerald Hyland during Monday's Fairfax County Board of Supervisors meeting, the landscape may be changing.

"What I am trying to do is facilitate the sale of the property so that it can be used for residential development rather than an industrial use which is how it is now zoned. Public Storage has indicated a willingness to sell the property. They are prepared to walk away and have someone else develop the site," Hyland said.

In order for this to happen "a Plan Amendment to allow consideration of a density greater than the currently recommended five dwelling units per acre is necessary," Hyland's proposal explained. His Board Matter proposed "a density of 8 to 12 dwelling units per acre."

As a matter of giving background to the supervisors on his proposed amendment, Hyland explained "There is a parcel zoned I-4 that is currently being developed as a self-storage facility adjacent to the residential community of Lorton Station.

"On Dec. 23, 2004, Public Storage began clear cutting their lot to begin construction of the Pohick Public Storage Facility. The parcel ... was rezoned I-4 in the late 1960s and is being developed by right. Because of the proximity of single-family homes and the elevation of the I-4 property, this development is not desirable."

HYLAND ALSO told the supervisors, "I have met with the homeowners and the Home Owners Association Board who would support residential development on the property." He explained that he had recently met with the homeowners and other parties to the plan and they "have indicated their agreement" with this proposal.

However, until the sale of the property is consummated, Public Storage is moving ahead with their plans. But, this does not involve any construction on the site at this time.

Their plan calls for a two-story self-storage facility of

approximately 96,000 square feet. Although it would only be a single story on the side facing the entrance roadway, it would rise two stories in the rear toward the homes due to the topography of the land. Originally construction was planned to commence four to six weeks following the land clearing.

Residents of Lorton Station's Buttermier Heights section claimed they were not made aware that the land abutting the properties on Carpenters Hall Drive was zoned I-4 when they purchased their homes from Ryan Homes over the past two years. It only became apparent to them when Public Storage, Inc., began clear cutting the three and one half acre site on Dec. 23, 2004.

LAND NOW occupied by the $600,000 plus homes was originally owned by KSI Development. It was sold to Ryan Homes who then built and sold the homes.

The previously wooded plot is adjacent to Pohick Road immediately past Lorton Station Boulevard. Originally owned by a public utility, it was purchased by Public Storage, Inc., of California approximately one and half years ago. The company is within its rights to develop it as a storage facility since it is presently zoned I-4.

If the land is sold for the purpose of residential development it will still need to go through the planning and zoning process, according to Hyland. That would include a change in zoning status as well as his request to increase the density of the rezoned acreage.

Three vocal organizers of the homeowners' protest to stop the construction of a Public Storage facility were Tim Landes, Denise Davis, and Michele Petrovich. They are all residents of the impacted subdivision.

During the original meeting at the site in January with representatives of Public Storage, Ryan Homes, KSI, and Hyland, the trio had suggested that the county buy the property for open space. This was not deemed feasible.

FOLLOWING THAT meeting Hyland commenced a series of meetings with all interested parties to find a mutually agreeable solution. That has brought forth his recent proposal to the supervisors.

"We are very happy so far. But, there are still several items we want resolved," said Landes, a Carpenters Hall Drive resident. The speculative new plan calls for the construction of 17 new townhouse condominiums that would be four stories high.

"That is two stories higher than the proposed storage facility and will tower over our single family homes. Therefore, we want them to be of all brick construction on all sides. And we would like to reduce the number to 14 by removing three of the units closest to our homes on Carpenters Hall," Landes said.

"And, if for some reason we can't make these new townhomes part of our Homeowners Association because of our bylaws, we want their association bylaws to have the same restrictions as ours. Our preference would be to make them a part of our association," he said.

Davis' reaction to Hyland's Board matter was also positive. "This has been a very long uphill battle and I'm very thankful that Supervisor Hyland has done this. We are also very proud of ourselves for being able to accomplish this," she said.

"I've seen us do a complete 360 and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that this all goes through. But, like the saying goes it isn't over until the fat lady sings," Davis said.

"We would encourage who ever finally develops this land to work with the community to make it consistent with the rest of our community," Petrovich said.

"Following a number meetings with all the parties involved, we are certainly pleased that Supervisor Hyland has made this proposal and we would encourage the Board of Supervisors to accept it. This plot should have been rezoned long ago to make it compatible with the residential area," she said.